WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Making Publicly Funded Research Available to the Public

Aug 13, 2013

A new law asks Illinois' public universities to consider making their research available for free, but it does not require it. 

Taxpayer dollars help fund a lot of research at state universities in Illinois. The findings are typically published in scholarly journals.

Activists feel that's a problem because the journals are much too expensive for most people to access.

My theory is... we will find that most campuses are going to want to adopt open access policies

The Illinois Capitol building

Initially, Senator Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who is a former math professor at the University of Chicago, introduced a plan that would have required all state universities in Illinois to make faculty articles available for free online.

But after hearing concerns from professors and journals, the new law instead requires task forces at the schools study the issue.

“My theory is that once we start serious, careful discussions on campus about this issue, we will find that most campuses are going to want to adopt open access policies,” Biss said.

He said if they don't, then the General Assembly can decide if more aggressive action is needed. 

Biss says he introduced the legislation in memory of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist and prodigy who grew up in Highland Park.  Swartz killed himself in January, after he was indicted by the Department of Justice for downloading a massive amount of scholarly articles from J-STOR, an online service, over MIT's network.